Using Meditation Strategies to Help Cope with Life While Experiencing Chronic Illness

Using Meditation Strategies to Help Cope with Life While Experiencing Chronic Illness

You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of yoga in improving mental and physical health, and in improving flexibility. Due to the shared benefits, the words ‘yoga’ and ‘meditation’ are often thought of as synonyms. Although meditation can be incorporated into yoga, they are different practices. While I was skeptical of meditation at first, it has indeed helped me to manage my stress and life while living with Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, and fatigue.

How Meditation Works

Meditation involves clearing your mind while maintaining a state of awareness. Or at least trying to! It is much more than sitting and concentrating in a quiet area for a designated amount of time; it involves calming your mind of all thoughts, achieving a deep inward peace, and maintaining attention and alertness in the process.

Have I gotten to the complete deep inward peace thing? Nope, not yet. But I have found that meditation is an excellent way to relax, to calm my anxious mind, and to take the focus off of my pain.

People often use certain postures, breathing techniques, and even chants to help facilitate the process of meditating, but these are not required. They are not the act of meditation itself, just the support tools. Personally, I like to meditate in my favorite recliner or in my bed because it’s most comfortable for me.

Meditation with Chronic Illness

Stress as a Spoonie is Extra Hard On Your Body

Meditation makes the body less responsive to stress hormones, which lowers blood pressure, improves blood circulation, improves digestion and immunity, and establishes emotional and neurological “balance.” 

How does this work exactly? 

According to what I’ve learned, it mostly comes down to hormones. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin increase blood pressure and heart rate, while “feel good” chemicals, such as serotonin, (which are released in a state of relaxation), work to repair cells.

Tips on Getting Started with Meditation

As a beginner, taking a meditation class, watching a video, or using an app that introduces you to the concept of meditation is the easiest way to get started. A guided meditation teaches you various techniques for facilitating the process. It is not as easy as I thought it would be, but I’m glad to have another calming tool in my toolbox.

Using apps to aid meditation to help cope with chronic illness

You may be able to find a class in your community that is specifically dedicated to meditation, but for me, it’s been easier to learn through online tools. Some meditation videos/audios can be found for free online. Try searching YouTube, or downloading an app. If you prefer a mix of yoga and meditation, the best types of yoga to focus on include Kundalini, Ananda, Jivamukti, and Integral.

Research shows that just 20 minutes of consistent meditation sessions can have tremendous health benefits. When my therapist suggested I try it, I was skeptical. There was no way I could do it for twenty full minutes! So I started with just five minutes at a time. Meditating before you go to bed can help you to fall asleep too. Personally, falling asleep is a struggle, and I have noticed that I fall asleep much faster if I meditate in bed.

Try getting outside! Many people find that sitting in nature – I just sit on my back porch – helps them to facilitate the process of meditation. It’s also a great way to get outside and absorb some Vitamin D.

Try meditation out side to help cope with chronic illness

Of course, everyone is different. To get started, experiment with different ways of meditating to see what work for you and what helps you the most. Also, try meditating at different times of the day and for different periods of time to find what works. It’s okay if you cannot calm your mind completely, (I rarely can!), you can still get many benefits from making the effort. Remember, you and your health are worth that effort!

Jenna Green is the creator Full of Grit & Grace, a blog and community for people who cannot work a traditional 9-5 job. She’s an outspoken spoonie with Multiple Sclerosis, Dystonia, Degenerative Disc disease, chronic pain, and a whole lot of grit. She strives to help others (and herself) to learn to give themselves grace while going through tough times. She’s a dog mom, auntie extradonaire, fashion lover, and (mostly) optimist.

What People with Chronic Illness Wish Our Friends and Family Understood

Finding My Confidence To Speak Up As A Child With Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness of any kind can truly impact all aspects of one’s life and make many things difficult. Poor health can put a strain on everything from your job and work life, as well as the relationships that you hold most dear. Over the years I’ve found that one of the hardest parts of living with a chronic condition is keeping your relationships healthy. While this may seem odd to those who haven’t walked this path, sadly, it’s very much an issue.

Until you are sick, you don’t see how much a strain can be put on your relationships by a chronic illness. When you have to routinely cancel plans or spend long periods at home in bed, it can be incredibly hard for those in your life to understand. This especially occurs when you have an ‘invisible’ condition such as Lupus or Multiple Sclerosis.

There are many things that those who deal with some kind of chronic illness (myself included) wish our able-bodied counterparts could understand. In this article, we are going to look at 5 things we wish our friends and family understood about living with a chronic illness.

I DO NOT like cancelling plans

Cancelling plans when you have chronic illness

Contrary to many people’s beliefs, most of the time we don’t like cancelling plans. Sure, there are times when we just don’t want to do something or go anywhere, but that can be the case for anyone, NOT just those who are chronically ill. Most of the time we would much rather be out and about doing things and being around people than be stuck at home. But sadly, sometimes that is not an option and we have to cancel plans. It is often easier to assume the worse than it is to find out what is really going on. People can often draw their own conclusions instead of asking why people with chronic illness are doing things like cancelling plans. I have found that in order to help those around us understand what it’s like to live with a chronic condition, we have to be willing and ready to be open about our health. We also have to be willing to work with those closest to us to help them understand what it’s like on our side of the table.

My health does not define me

My health does not define me – While our health may impact almost every aspect of our life, it is not all that we are. For instance, I am not just Amber who has Lupus. I am so much more than that. I do have lupus, but my illness is not what solely defines me. I am Amber with Lupus, who is a daughter, a sister, a friend, a patient advocate, and so much more. So please remember we are so much more than our health and should never be defined by it.

Just because I look okay, does not mean I feel okay!

It is easy to put on a brave face and to cover how badly I feel with makeup, for a short time. Outwardly I may look put together, but what you wouldn’t know is that it took hours to get ready because I had to take a break every few minutes. Living with an invisible illness is tricky, people can never tell I feel based on my outward appearance. So I wish people would please just ask, instead of assuming.

Looking "okay" with a chronic illness

Please don’t compare my illness or symptoms to another person’s

Just like no two people are the same, no two cases of a chronic illness are the same. You may know three people who all have Lupus, but more likely than not they don’t have the same issues. Please don’t compare me to anyone else you know with my condition. You would never compare two Americans just because they are American, so please don’t compare the chronically ill. Also, if you know someone who died from my condition, I don’t need to know!!!

Just because I felt good yesterday does not mean I will feel good today

Many people who are not chronically ill do not understand that in order to get out of the house, we have to scrape together energy and will likely pay for it tomorrow. Please don’t assume that just because I was out for a girl’s day yesterday that I will feel like going to brunch today. Chances are that if I really pushed myself yesterday, I will be paying for it today and quite possibly for several days to come. Please don’t assume that I am being untruthful when I say I am in bed today, just because you saw me when I was out yesterday.

Just because I felt good yesterday does not mean I will feel good today

Many people have a hard time understanding chronic illnesses since the majority of conditions that are chronic are invisible, meaning they can’t be seen by the naked eye. That alone can cause issues in relationships because one cannot see what the other is dealing with on a daily basis. The pain or the shortness of breath can’t be seen and therefore often can’t be understood. This is why it is imperative that we, as the chronically ill, provide education to those around us. It is imperative that we explain to those closest to us what a good day for us is as well as a bad day. If we never explain why we are always cancelling plans, people may eventually start to assume it’s due to something they are doing, rather than the fact that we just don’t feel like going out. It is also important that we let others help us remember, as noted in number two above, that we are not defined by our illness. While we want others to remember this, we also need to remember this for ourselves.

In closing, we can’t expect others to understand the things discussed above if we don’t ever tell them. If we never share our health with those around us, we can never expect people to fully understand. It’s important to try to ensure happy relationships with friends, which requires communication and understanding.

About the Author

Amber writes at She is a Registered Nurse by but due to her illness she is no longer able to work outside the home. Although her years of medical background give her a different point of view on many topics. Her goal in life has become raising awareness for the issues those with chronic conditions face, as well as for the conditions themselves. She also wants to make sure that those suffering from a chronic illness know that they are not alone in their fight.

6 Tips For Working With Chronic Back Pain

Tips for working with chronic back pain

Almost everyone experiences back pain from time to time… but what about those of us that live with degenerative disc disease, sciatica, nerve pain issues etc?! It can be extremely difficult to focus through any type of chronic pain, and working with chronic back pain can be near impossible at times. I’ve been living and working with chronic back pain since a car accident in 2013, so I’m sharing a few of my best tips.

Listen to Your Body

No pain, no gain? Nope, that doesn’t apply to me anymore! I’ve learned the hard way that pushing through the pain isn’t a smart choice for me most of the time. While I try not to focus on my pain, I cannot ignore what my body is trying to tell me. Keeping a journal or notebook can help you to understand what triggers cause your pain to flare up. What were you doing the day BEFORE a sciatica flare? Have you been sitting in a new position? Sleeping differently? Writing down your day to day activities can help you to spot triggers (especially if the pain is a newer issue), and to avoid them in the future. 

Move frequently. I’m not suggesting you walk 10 miles on your break, but rather take more frequent breaks to gently move your body. If you’re lucky enough to work from home, this will likely be easier than if you work in an office. Hopefully, your employer will understand that frequent breaks will help to keep your back from seizing up! I’ve found that I shouldn’t sit for more than an hour, which is why I make it a point to get up, stretch, and walk around my house a bit. Take a call while standing up, walking slowly, or doing some exercises that you learned at physical therapy.

Take frequent breaks to manage your pain levels while working. Take a call while standing up, walking slowly, or doing some exercises that you learned at physical therapy.

Make Your Environment as Comfortable as Possible

Create a work environment that works for you! If you’re lucky enough to be self employed or work from home, this is certainly easier. You’ll often find me working on my laptop on my recliner, with my favorite supportive pillows and a heating pad. Investing in a supportive chair and furniture can also be a huge help. A large therapy ball is also a great affordable tool to switch out with your desk chair occasionally. Having good lighting so you don’t need to lean forward or squint at your screen (effecting your posture) is also extremely helpful! 

Working with chronic back pain tips: make your environment as comfortable as possible and keep items for stretching nearby.

Life is hard enough as it is, try to make things easier on yourself! I always have heating pads, ice packs, a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, a yoga mat, and my various favorite comfort items nearby. If I put them in a closet or a hard to reach area then I am not as likely to use them. Yes, my husband used to find it annoying, but he’s gotten used to me working from home and all of the things that I need to make it possible! Also, I strive to keep my desk and office area free of unnecessary clutter and paperwork. As much as I love cute knick knacks, they only make for more work for cleaning your space.

Mindset Matters

Adjust your expectations. Note: I said adjust, not lower (my therapist tells me that our words have an impact on our mental health, and lowering our expectations sure sounds depressing). If you’re able to set your own schedule and goals, make them manageable for what YOU want to accomplish. It’s easier said then done, but try to stay in our own lane! If you have quotas, clients, or deadlines to meet that are set by others, be open and honest with them about your capabilities. Let your employer know that sometimes your pain flares and it is beyond your control. I’ve had to share my health issues with my clients and most are far more understanding than I had feared they would be. Plus, I work hard to set realistic expectations for not only my clients, but for myself. 

Prioritize ruthlessly. Can I write three blog posts in one day? Nope, probably not. Can I prioritize work that has to be completed today first, leaving emails and following up to messages for later? Yes. Not only do I prioritize my to-do list every day, I also prioritize my self-care. Massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, and other medical treatments help keep my chronic pain at a ‘manageable’ level. They’re also expensive and sometimes exhausting. Personally, I am lucky enough to be able to work my schedule around the appointments that I need to prioritize. I also have learned to adjust my spending to accommodate these expenses as well. Would I like to go out to dinner more often or drive a newer car? Yes, but those things won’t improve my quality of life as much as my self-care expenses do.

Prioritize your to do list to ensure you can accomplish your most important work first. Don't forget to prioritize your self care as well when living with chronic pain.

Most importantly, try to treat yourself with kindness and give yourself the grace you’d give your friends. We cannot be superman or superwoman, because they are fictional characters. No one can do it all, and that is okay!

Jenna Green is the creator Full of Grit & Grace, a blog and community for people who cannot work a traditional 9-5 job. She’s an outspoken spoonie with Multiple Sclerosis, Dystonia, Degenerative Disc disease, chronic pain, and a whole lot of grit. She strives to help others (and herself) to learn to give themselves grace while going through tough times. She’s a dog mom, auntie extradonaire, fashion lover, and (mostly) optimist.

Growing Up with Multiple Sclerosis

Growing up with multiple sclerosis

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) when I was just 15 years old, after a couple of years of odd symptoms (vision difficulties and a numb left leg) and an MRI scan. At the time, I don’t think I truly realised what a life-changing diagnosis it would be. Perhaps due to naivety or just a refusal to consider the worst, the first few years after diagnosis were spent just getting on with it. I didn’t make any effort to change or adapt my lifestyle to help myself or to connect with other young MSers like me. If I didn’t think about it, it wasn’t a big problem, was it?

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic, degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Over time, your brain and spinal cord are damaged through ‘lesions’ (like scars) that make it difficult for signals to get through. This means that both motor and sensory serves can be affected, in any part of the body. In addition, those of us with MS often have fatigue and cognitive symptoms (such as difficulties with memory or word-finding).

Growing Up with Multiple Sclerosis

Growing up with multiple sclerosis Back in 1994, when I was diagnosed, I was a happy, carefree teenager. I thought about my school work, boys, seeing my friends, music, boys, parties and, er, boys. Typical teenage girl stuff, I guess. But as much as I refused to let my MS diagnosis change me, it did change me.

Suddenly, I couldn’t go out every Friday because, if I was having a relapse or flare, I couldn’t walk. At school, I couldn’t play basketball because I couldn’t see the basket. I was often missing school, due to travelling back and forth to a city two hours away to see a Neurologist. I also had problems with my ‘waterworks’, which meant that I needed to see a specialist nurse to learn how to self-catheterise. Of course, I didn’t talk to my friends about it – what other 15-year old girls would understand?

Looking Back on an Invisible Illness

It is only in hindsight, as an almost 40-year old woman with two children of her own, that I can see just how much my MS diagnosis at such a young age really made me grow up. Ok, so I didn’t quite have the impetus to make significant changes to my lifestyle, as I have as an adult. But I did become much more aware of the difficulties that others face and the existence of invisible disabilities – I suddenly had one!

Growing up with multiple sclerosis Anyone looking at me, when I didn’t have obvious physical symptoms, would have no idea about my diagnosis. I didn’t talk about it, except to doctors or nurses on a need to know basis. Of course, not talking meant that I was dealing with this life-changing diagnosis by myself. My parents and siblings were always there when I needed them, but I didn’t want to burden them. I hated being a source of worry to my parents. I tend to think that, because I didn’t want to burden anyone with my issues, I almost didn’t burden myself. It was almost like I was denial. But I know now that if I had taken the time to talk to someone or research Multiple Sclerosis and what could potentially help, I could have had a very different outcome than I do today.

Multiple Sclerosis As An Adult

I have now moved on to Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS), where you get fewer flares and more progressive disability. Spending so long ‘in denial’ made my move to SPMS almost like being diagnosed all over again. I’m dealing with the grief of the ‘old’ me and thinking about ‘what ifs’. I know that there has been research over the past 50 years which has looked at how making positive changes to your diet and lifestyle can put you in the best possible position for fighting MS. I sometimes kick myself for not looking into this sooner. But was I truly ready when I was a teen? I’m not sure. And I don’t think that it is helpful always regretting what you could have done.

Advice For Teens With Chronic Illness

If I could give any advice to other teenagers diagnosed with MS, or any other chronic illness for that matter, it would be this:

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to others. Social media is now around. You can connect with others around the world who are going through the same things as you.
  • Take your health into your own hands. Research what may help. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need or to make the lifestyle changes that will help you.
  • Enjoy life. Despite my MS, I have travelled, had children, and built a career. I am always finding new pleasures every day.

Life doesn’t stop because of a chronic illness diagnosis; it just adds a curve to the road that you will be able to pass.

About the Author:

Jenny writes about multiple sclerosis at The Unchargeables Jenny is a married mother of two who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis as a teenager. She enjoys blogging about her life living with MS on, where she shares her day-to-day life, information, healthy recipes and parenting tips.

Chronic Illness – the silent thief

The pickpocket

A quarter of a century ago, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It was a quick process, taking only four months from my first symptoms to the day when my neurologist said “You have MS”.


At the time I knew nothing about this illness. Or what a future with this illness would hold for me.



For the first 10 years after diagnosis, my illness progressed through a series of remissions and relapses. These are periods of disappearing symptoms (remissions) followed by periods of increasing or worsening symptoms (relapses). Despite taking beta-interferon, this continued to happen. During that time, my right leg became ‘heavier and heavier’.


The fatigue was also a constant battle that I fought using coffee, cigarettes, and Modafinil. Though this was a difficult time, I managed to help create a business, get married, and start a family.


Looking back on this time, it was a blur. The crushing fatigue was really difficult.


chronic Fatigue

Then, nearly 15 years ago, I was introduced to a simple drug called Low Dose Naltrexone or LDN. This became a pivot point in my life. All of the things that MS had stolen from me were returned. I could walk and run again. And my energy returned. That crushing fog of fatigue was blown away. The full colour of my life was restored.


It was like returning to my teenage years. Physically, I was back. But the trauma of the previous 10 years left a scar on my psyche. It remains and is part of who I am now. This crook-Multiple Sclerosis-had kept a part of me.


This period lasted 10 years. A decade of good health while the roller coaster of life continued. I was fortunate that I could truly enjoy these years. I cherished my mental clarity. It is only when you have lost something, and have it returned, that you fully appreciate what was lost in the first place.


But the pilferer returned. And this time it was sneaky. It was a minor accident. Trivial. Four years ago, a car hit me from behind as I was stopped in traffic. The impact caused headaches. Constant, throbbing, piercing pain that never stops. However, that wasn’t the whole story.


The lesion in my neck, which had lain dormant for so long, awoke. As it rose from its slumber, stretched, and started kicking its legs; it caused mine to slow. The more alert it became, the greater became my fatigue. MS was leeching and stealing from me again.



Now, nearly four years later, my MS has progressed and stolen my legs completely. My inability to walk has taken my job. The enduring pain makes concentration a distant memory. Once again, chronic illness has taken and grabbed part of me.


This time I have learned. I have learned how to live with adversity. I have learned the skill of enjoying what I have, especially during the time I was healthy. I have learned well because, as I have experienced, the circumstances of my life could change again overnight. This burglar called MS could return at any time and steal something else.


But now I don’t despair. I have learned the tools of meditation and journaling and they have helped me to focus. Not on what has been taken away, but on what remains. It is by being grateful for the many things that I have that this robber doesn’t steal my life from me.


Now, a tasty meal is savoured. I stop to enjoy the view. I bend down to wonder at the beauty and scent of a flower. The riches that I have in these many small things give me true pleasure and joy.


Chronic illness may be a thief, but my gratitude cannot be stolen.




Robert JoyceI was born in 1969 and I live in Connemara, Ireland.  Connemara is a beautiful part of the world with an amazing landscape, but it does have one drawback: the rain.  It is a very wet part of Europe with grey skies and lots of puddles.  At this stage of my life, I don’t really notice it that much.  I have gotten used to it and have the clothes that suit this environment, raincoats, and shoes that are waterproof as they are essential.

When I was 23, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  It is the relapsing/remitting version of the illness.  It became a big obstacle in my work at the time.  I had chronic fatigue and walking felt like I had one leg in a river.  I lost the sensation in my legs.  It was a scary time of my life and I had been working a new job in London.  After several months, I realised that I could not continue.  The pace that that work required was too much.  I returned home to recover and to find some alternative way of living.  My parents were very supportive and helped me start a new life.

Since that time, I have done many things.  I have had two beautiful children and I am very proud of how much they have achieved so far in their lives.  I  have owned several businesses, operated as a business consultant, and have been the head of a sporting organisation in Ireland.  These businesses have allowed me to travel the world.  Aside from Ireland, I have done business in the USA,  the UK, Norway, Spain, Turkey and Switzerland.  I have endured major accidents as well and currently write about my experiences.  But all in all, these experiences have made me who I am today.

9 Must Read Pieces About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis skeleton

Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable medical condition in which the brain loses control over different parts of the body. Besides the brain, this disease also affects the spinal cord and disrupts the flow of information between the brain and other body parts. Effects of this disease range from mild disruption of communication to total loss of communication between the brain and different body parts. Even in this era of science and technology, this disease is somewhat mysterious. Some physicians believe that Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, as the human body has the ability to recover the communication system between the brain and other body parts. Over the past few years, several studies have been launched to investigate the symptoms, causes and treatments of this disease. We have collected some of the best articles on this disease that can help you to understand this disease in a much better way.


Multiple sclerosis skeleton




1. Multiple Sclerosis

diagram of nerve







Via: eMedicine Health
This article is very good for those people who don’t know anything about this illness. This piece includes an overview, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, prevention, and medication.


2. NINDS Multiple Sclerosis Information Page

Role of Myelin-Reactive T-cells in MS








Via: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

The official website of national institute of neurological disorders and stroke has detailed information of a large number of diseases. In this information page you will find basic things that you must know about multiple sclerosis.


3. What Is MS?

william diagnosed in 2002






Via: National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is not only striving to increase awareness about multiple sclerosis, but also helping patients all over the world to treat this disease. This is a short article for those who want to know about MS within few minutes.


4. Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

MS Brain







Via: WebMD

If you want to dig deep about this disease then this article is for you. You can go to the “frequently asked questions” section to learn what people want to know about this disease.


5. MS Patients Might Benefit from New Oral Drug

ABC News doctor and woman







Via: ABC News

In 2012, an oral drug was introduced in the United States but physicians were unsure of its results. This article reviews the drug from different perspectives.


6. Suicide Rate Almost Double in Patients With Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis portrait of a patient







Via: Health Rwanda

Some diseases lead people to do things such as committing suicide. Multiple sclerosis has also led some people to suicide, this is a very interesting piece of writing, in which the author addressed this issue underlining the seriousness of MS.


7. Newly Approved Multiple Sclerosis Drug Given To First U.S. Patients Today In Cullman

woman with blood pressure cuff







Via: Health Passion

Multiple sclerosis is a mysterious disease, but doctors have succeeded in developing a cure. In 2015, a new drug was approved to cure multiple sclerosis, and this article is about what happened next.


8. About Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis

child in hospital bed








Via: Pediatrics MS

Children can also get multiple sclerosis. This emotional article is about the story of children who are fighting MS. This article also explains why it is difficult to diagnose and predict this illness.


9. Multiple Sclerosis Pictures, Symptoms and Treatment

Multiple sclerosis skeleton







Via: Medicine Net

This article contains very detailed and graphic information about this disease. The best thing about this piece is that it describes every aspect of the disease with the help of a picture.

Multiple Facts about Multiple Sclerosis

multiple sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis is a medical condition in which the patient’s brain and spinal cord show abnormal behavior. These two parts of your body make up the central nervous system. This system is responsible for taking messages from the brain and conveying them to the other parts of the body, and vice versa. MS causes communication issues within the brain and between the brain and other parts of the body. This miss-communication can lead to several complications, ranging from difficulty in moving to total disability.

The symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis vary with the severity of the illness. Sometimes this disease prevails in the body without showing any visible signs. There are many factors that may cause this disease but the exact causes are still unknown. Some of the potential causes are genetics, infections, deficiency of immunity, and environmental factors. Due to the lack of understanding of the exact causes of MS, no cure has yet been found. However, there are some treatments available which will reduce the symptoms of MS and lead to a better quality of life for patients.
This book will take you through the history of this disease and unravel some of the latest findings of this disease to help you understand and fight it.


Historical Perspective

Multiple Sclerosis is one of the most common disorders of the human central nervous system but it was not discovered until the early years of the nineteenth century. Historical documents reveal that even people in the Middle Ages faced the illness with symptoms similar to MS; but due to lack of scientific methods and modern technology this disease didn’t get proper attention. In 1868 the father of neurology, Jean-Martin Charcot, wrote about this disease. He was treating a young female with neurological problems. His examination of her brain after her death was the first time doctors were able to begin to understand MS and how it affects the nervous system.

Multiple Sclerosis Warrior

In 1873, Dr. Walter Moxon officially recognized this disease in England and then in 1878, Dr. Edward Seguin recognized it in the United States. After that, several theories were established to explain the causes of this disease but none of them could be proved due to insufficient technology. The chances to study this disease in a much better way increased drastically when Dr. Santiago Ramon and Dr. Camillo Golgi perfected some chemicals to improve the nerve cells’ visibility under the microscope. They were awarded a Nobel Prize in 1906 for this achievement. After this discovery, many doctors including Dr. Louis Ranvier got the opportunity to study the nerve cells in detail, leading to the discovery of building block myelin. Myelin is one of the most important components of our nervous system and has a very strong link with MS. It wasn’t until the 1940s, however, that doctors succeeded in finding the exact composition of myelin. In 1943, Sylvis Lawry founded The National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Her brother was suffering from this diseases and it motivated her to create this society. The society’s initial aim was to find someone who had recovered from this illness. Although they failed this movement contributed a lot in creating awareness about this disease.

In the 1950s, the field of biology was revolutionised when James Watson and Francis Crick published their description of DNA – a discovery which earned them a Novel Prize in 1953 and paved the way for a far greater understanding of multiple sclerosis and many other diseases.

Over the course of last 100 years, physicians have come a long way in their understanding of Multiple Sclerosis, and today we know a huge amount about this disease that can help you to fight it.

history of multiple sclerosis
James Watson and Francis Crick (right) who presented the double helix model of DNA

Symptoms of MS

The symptoms of MS are as unpredictable as this disease itself. You can even have MS without showing any kind of sign. In some cases, patients experience mild issues like fatigue or numbness but in serious cases, vision loss or even paralysis may be sympomatic.


Numbness & Tingling

This disease disturbs the communication between brain and body as a result of which your body can receive conflicting messages from the brain which makes it difficult for the body to respond. Sometimes brain signals don’t reach the body and it causes numbness. Tingling & numbness are two of the most common warning signs of this disease. If you are having frequent numbness in your face, fingers, legs, and arms then you must visit your doctor.


Vision Issues

Your optic nerves are very close to the central nervous system and Multiple Sclerosis can also disrupt the communication between these nerves and result in double or blurred vision. There are lots of other factors that can cause this issue but in MS, you will also feel pain when you see from the top or corners of your eyes. This condition can also lead to vision loss.


Chronic Pain

According to studies by the National MS Society, almost 50% of patients with MS suffer from chronic pain. You may feel soreness in the torso which is known as ‘MS girdle’ or ‘MS hug’. You may also feel pain in your back, legs, and joints.


Weakness & Fatigue

80% of patients with MS feel weakness and fatigue without having any clear explanation. It is possible that you will feel fatigue or weakness even after resting for several hours.


Weak Coordination & Dizziness

The miss-communication between body and brain leads to poor physical coordination and can limit the mobility of patients. You may also feel dizziness. This feeling will not stay for long but its frequent occurrence suggests the presence of MS.


Problems with Bladder and Bowel

MS also affects the bowel, bladder, and reproductive systems of patients. You may experience:
Frequent urination
Difficulty in holding urine
Difficulty in sexual arousal
Loss of bowel control


Cognitive Issues

Since MS is directly linked to the brain, it also causes several cognitive problems. Some of those problems include:

  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Loss of memory
  • Issues with speech and language


Other Symptoms

Some other signs of Multiple Sclerosis include:

  • Seizures
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Out of control shaking
  • Hearing loss
  • Garbled speech
  • Breathing problem

All these symptoms may occur to a greater or lesser extent – however, with advances in modern medicine they can also be controlled in the majority of cases.

main symptoms of multiple sclerosis

Types of Multiple Sclerosis

On the basis of its pattern, there are four basic types of Multiple Sclerosis.

Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)

In this kind of MS, symptoms start to appear periodically after regular intervals. This period of symptomatic activity is also known as relapse, flare, or attack. After these active periods you may experience quiet periods known as remission. In this remission period symptoms become less noticeable or may disappear entirely. The length of remission period varies from months to years. This is the most common type of MS and according to estimates almost 80 to 90% patients of MS suffer from RRMS.

Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS)

In PPMS the severity of symptoms increases gradually over time. In this type, you will not experience any remission period but the intensity of some symptoms may decrease to some extent. Johns Hopkins Medicine claims that PPMS affects approximately 10 to 15% of patients.

Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS)

This type is closely associated with RRMS and many people with RRMS ultimately develop SPMS. In this type, the severity of symptoms gradually increases, leading to what is known as ‘acute attack’. More than 50% patients with RRMS develop SPMS within 10 years and 90% of RRMS patients develop this type within 25 years.

Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS)

This is the most severe type of MS. In PRMS, symptoms start to aggravate gradually and severity increases to an extreme level. In medical terms this phenomenon is known as ‘acute exacerbation’. This is rare type of MS and less than 10% of patients with MS experience this disease.

Pathogenesis of MS

Pathogenesis is the manner by which any disease progresses. The pathogenesis of MS covers the whole lifespan of the patient. The type of MS determines what path this disease will follow and it is also important to study the pathogenesis of this disease to diagnose the right type and to make efforts in treating the disease. The diagram below shows how different types of MS progress.

pathogenesis of different types of ms



The causes of multiple sclerosis are largely a matter of theory and hypothesis, as physicians simply don’t have enough conclusive evidence to claim that certain factors are known to cause the disease. Here you will find out how this disease prevails in your body, which factors are most likely to cause this disease and which factors aggravate this condition.

Deterioration of Myelin

In the history section, you found that myelin is closely linked to MS. Myelin is a unique substance in your body which is designed to protect the central nervous system. It is an insulating material composed of phospholipids and protein. It covers the nerve fibres (as shown in the figure below) and electrically insulates them which increases the speed of signal flow and facilitates communication between neurons.

myelin stealth
Structure of Neuron also showing Myelin

Your body has the natural tendency to recover any deterioration of myelin but a significant reduction in myelin may be a cause of multiple sclerosis. The damage to the myelin disturbs the communication between the brain and the body and symptoms of MS start to appear.


Possible Factors of Multiple Sclerosis

Immunologic Factors
As described earlier, a deficiency in myelin can cause MS but the question is which factors can reduce your natural immunity. This is the one of the biggest questions for researchers as they seek better treatments and even a cure for MS.


Diseases like MS usually pass through from parents to children, so scientists are also working in this direction. Statistics and research results do suggest a genetic connection.

Environmental factors

Scientists have discovered that Vitamin D plays a very important roll in protecting against the deterioration of myelin. The human body processes Vitamin D from sunlight, and consequently people who live nearer to the equator are enriched in Vitamin D and their ability to protect myelin is much higher, leading to a far lower occurrence of MS in equatorial populations.


There is a virus, demyelination, which causes the inflammation and breakdown of myelin. It has opened the gates to study the infectious factors that can cause MS. Some bacteria and viruses that have potential to cause this medical condition are

  • Human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6)
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
  • Measles virus

myelin in ms

Common Trends

Though the causes are not well known, over the past few decades experts have gathered enough information to identify some trends associated with this disease. These trends include:

Age: People between the ages of 15 and 60 are more likely to experience this disease.

Gender: Women are 2 times more likely to have this illness.

Heredity: There is evidence to suggest that multiple sclerosis may be an inherited disease.

Infections: Some viruses are known to have a link with MS. One of them is the Epstein virus, which causes infectious mononucleosis.

Race: Descendants of Northern European people are at higher risk while Asian, Native American, and African races demonstrate a lower likelihood of contracting the disease.

Smoking: Patients who experience one occurrence of MS symptoms are more likely to experience a second ‘event’ if they also smoke. There is an increased chance for smokers that RRMS will develop.

Associated diseases: If you have bowel inflammatory disease, type1 diabetes, or thyroid problems then the chances of developing MS are higher than those who don’t have this disease.


Epidemiology of MS

Epidemiology is the study of different aspects of a disease within a certain population. The epidemiology of Multiple Sclerosis is very important to understand because the statistics indicate that people in some regions and people of certain races are more likely to experience the symptoms of MS. In 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the MS International Federation published a worldwide study on the epidemiology of MS, under the name of Atlas. According to Atlas, 2.3 million people all over the world are fighting with MS. This disease is found in almost every part of the world but Europe and North America have the highest number of patients with MS. Almost 10% of MS patients live in America. On the other hand, East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest number of such patients. This varying possibility of people in different regions to have this disease is referred as the prevalence factor. You already know that Vitamin D is one of the reasons why people at the equator are less likely to have this disease. The following diagram shows which parts of the world have the highest prevalence factor.

epidemiology of ms

Diagnosing MS

Many factors contribute to the cause this illness and several other factors increase its severity. There is therefore no single test which will provide enough evidence to diagnose this disease with 100% certainty. Moreover, most of the symptoms of this disease are similar to those of other neural diseases due to which its diagnosis in early stages is very difficult.
Modern technology has allowed us to use several hi-tech tests to diagnose such diseases, but it is potentially dangerous and expensive to use a large number of tests that utilize radiation. All these complications in the diagnosis of this disease lead doctors to follow a ‘step by step’ approach so that the risk of an incorrect diagnosis can be reduced. Before administering any test doctors will ask about symptoms and family history of diseases. Sometimes the condition of the patient indicates the nature of the disease. After the preliminary checkup, doctors can ask you to go through one or all of the following tests.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

In the 19th century, doctors discovered that MS causes inflammation of the brain. With the help of MRI, doctors can observe this inflammation. If they find inflammation of the brain and/or spinal cord then there is very high possibility of MS. This kind of diagnosis cannot confirm MS in older people and patients with diabetes and high blood pressure as these two diseases and aging can also cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Equally, the absence of inflammation does not completely rule out MS because 5% patients with MS don’t show any physical abnormality of the central nervous system. However, it can be used as a good indication.

Spinal Taps

Spinal tap, also known as lumbar puncture, is the testing of cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid resides in the spinal cord and high expertise is required to remove the right quantity of this fluid. Doctors examine the protein level and current composition of this fluid. The composition of cerebrospinal fluid can indicate whether the myelin is damaged or not. This fluid is extremely important therefore doctors will suggest only in the case of extreme necessity. The procedure to acquire this fluid from spinal cord is shown in the figure below.

lumbar puncture


The treatment method for diseases of the nervous system has improved a lot over the past few decades. There was a time when doctors used to inject gold and silver in order to treat neural diseases. Now technology has helped us to treat several diseases, but currently, there is no treatment method that can completely cure multiple sclerosis; therefore doctors try instead to cure the symptoms to reduce the severity of the disease.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a modification of the surgery used for the treatment of tremors in patients with diseases like essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. In this surgery, the surgeon tries to destroy two parts in the brain. These two small parts are the thalamus and globus pallidus. These parts reside deep in the brain therefore this surgery is known as deep brain stimulation. This surgery is considered high-risk, because the destruction of wrong cells in the brain can cause several complications like loss of vision and paralysis.
Usually, 4 electrodes are used in this surgery and the surgeon adjusts the position of electrodes by testing the reaction of the patient during the surgery. In this way doctors can find the right spot without causing any damage to other parts of the brain. This treatment method does not cure MS but it can relieve the signs of those tremors that are related to MS. This treatment method is not yet approved in the USA by the FDA.

deep brain stimulation


Plasma is the liquid component of your blood. In MS some viruses and bacteria in the blood damage the myelin and it is important to clean the blood to eliminate the chances of attack on myelin. In a process similar to a blood transfer or dialysis, this is done using the healthy plasma of a donor. This treatment can help to manage severe flares. This method can reduce your blood pressure significantly and you may feel dizziness or weakness. If you are allergic then this procedure can cause an allergic reaction. This treatment method is very promising because 40% of people who display sudden and sever attacks show improvement after this treatment. Moreover, this treatment method is relatively simple and inexpensive, but unfortunately it is only a short term option.

Therapies to Modify Progress

You can use different therapies to reduce the duration, frequency and severity of relapses. These therapies are also known as disease-modifying therapies (DMTs). These therapies cannot cure the disease but they can certainly improve a patient’s standard of living.

Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada)

You can use this DMT if you are suffering from RRMS and you have gone through one relapse. It is used as the first therapy for most patients. Usually, doctors recommend 2 courses of this DMT with a gap of one year. Each requires 5 drips for 5 days (one drip for each day).

Avonex (interferon beta-1b)

If you have RRMS and after the first attack your MRI shows that your MS is still active then you can use this therapy. If you have SPMS and experience severe relapses then this DMT may also be prescribed.

Betaferon (interferon beta-1b)

This is the most popular therapy to treat MS. You will need to inject it under your skin or into the muscle and it can reduce the severity and rate of relapses. Flu and irritation at the injection site are the side effects of this therapy.

Dimethyl Fumarate (Tecfidera)

Doctors recommend to take this medicine twice in a day and it can also help you to increase the period of remission time. Its side effects are nausea, diarrhea, the decrease in white blood cells, and flushing.

Extavia (beta interferon-1b)

This therapy is predominantly used for RRMS and SPMS and you have to inject it under your skin. You will need to use it every other day.

Fingolimod (Gilenya)

This DMT is also used to decrease the rate of relapses. It is important to check the heartbeat before taking this medicine for the first time because it slows down the heart rate. Side effects of this medicine are high blood pressure, blurred vision, and headache.

Glatiramer acetate (Copaxone)

This DMT protects the myelin from the attacks of different viruses. You have to inject it under your skin. You will feel some irritation at the site of injection.

Natalizumab (Tysabri)

This medication blocks those movements in the bloodstream that can damage your immune cells. In this way it can prevent further deterioration of your myelin. Some people use it as their primary medicine. The side effect of this disease is that it can increase the risk of viral infection.

Plegridy (peginterferon beta 1a)

This injection is used to increase the gap between relapses. Usually this is prescribed fortnightly.

Rebif (beta interferon-1a)

Rebif is similar to Plegridy and used for exactly the same reason. The main difference is that you will need to use it once in a weak.

Teriflunomide (Aubagio)

This DMT is used to reduce the number of relapses. Women who want to have babies in future, should avoid this therapy as it can have an impact on the female reproductive system. Other side effects of this DMT are hair loss and liver damage.

Alternative Treatment

The number of treatment methods for MS is increasing with time. Modern medicine involves several chemical and can cause serious side effects. Some holistic treatment methods such as acupuncture may also help you. Acupuncture cannot cure MS but it can help reduce symptoms like pain and muscle spasm. Some patients even experience better bladder control with this treatment method.

Exercises like yoga and tai chi can also help to fight the pain and emotional problems. These exercises provide you flexibility, energy, and balance which can help you to improve your physical activities. Concentration through yoga can help you to overcome depression and anxiety.

Some people recommend medical marijuana because it reduces the pain. Marijuana disables that part of the brain which is responsible to interpret the feelings of pain. When this part disables it automatically reduces the feeling of pain, but it is not recommended.

Other methods to treat this disease are:

  • Baclofen Pump
  • Botox
  • Imuran
  • Novantrone
  • IV Steroid
  • Tysabri Therapy
  • Physical Therapy

To some degree, the effectiveness of treatment of multiple sclerosis depends on the patient’s mental attitude. You have to remain positive and encourage yourself to live the life to its full. A positive mental attitude will not treat this disease but it will give you the strength to keep on trying.


WebMD Multiple Sclerosis

Mayo Clinic Conditions

Mayo Clinic Treatments

National MS society introduction

National MS society brochure

Every Day Health Guide

Health Line early symptoms

Health Line pausible casues

NHS UK Conditions

MS Society licensed disease modifying drugs

Spoonie Story: Melinda

spoonie story melinda

Hi Everyone, I’m Melinda. I was diagnosed in 2014 with M.S. I also have severe lower extremity lymphedema (inherited. Thanks, Grandma.)

spoonie story melinda

It took 10 years of fighting to get to the diagnosis. You see, I also happen to be fat. Have been most of my life. So every time I went to a doctor because I could barely walk, or my leg was mysteriously numb or my hands wouldn’t work, I was generally patted on the head and told to “just lose weight and you’ll feel better.”

Problem is, my father also had M.S. and this was before they had any of the disease modifying drugs. I watched it turn him into a drooling vegetable within a span of about 15 years. It finally killed him. Well, technically it was pneumonia, but he wouldn’t have gotten that if he wasn’t already very sick from the M.S. I knew what was happening to me because I’d seen it in my father. I finally stumbled into a doctor who actually practiced medicine instead of supporting the weight loss industry.

I’m finally on therapy but my disease has progressed to the extent that my cognitive function is compromised. I am no longer able to work, but have been fighting for over a year to get disability. Anyone who says it’s an easy way out or an easy system to manipulate has clearly never had an actual need for it. Our country (U.S.A.) is sadly messed up in this regard. I have more challenging days than good as of late. But I keep on keeping on. Because really, there isn’t any other option.

Spoonie Story: Ally

spoonie story ally

My name is Ally, I am 38 years old and I am a single parent to two children, aged 11 & 18. I have MS and degenerative disc disease, which has changed my life.

spoonie story ally

Since the age of 16, I have worked full time and never been without a job. Around 16 years ago, I had a severe headache and lost the sight in both of my eyes. I spent months in hospital and was eventually treated with intravenous steroids. After the first course, my eyesight started to improve, so they gave me a second lot. After 6 months, my sight returned and I carried on as normal. 12 months later, it happened again but not so severe. This time, the steroids made my liver and kidneys start to fail and I spent Christmas in bed.

Fast forward to 2012, when I started to feel unwell, then was rushed into hospital after collapsing. For three months, I couldn’t move my legs. I had physio and used a wheelchair. I then had numerous hospital visits and emergency admissions. My symptoms at times included loss of movement, loss of speech, loss of vision, incontinence and inability to swallow. My neurologist suggested it may be a psychological issue rather than physical. I was devastated. Then 12 months ago I was diagnosed with MS.

I no longer work full time, my fatigue dictates that. I get told all the time I look tired and I need a rest… If only it were that simple. I feel unreliable as a friend and let people down often after making arrangements. I struggle with my confidence when in symptomatic and hide away. I feel inadequate as a parent, as my kids look after me often. But… Im a fighter!